In the clear light of this morning, calendarless, if not timeless, this lone flicker appreciates water that is not frozen, pecks the full feeder and pays this first day of the year no mind.
Zen and Daoist meditators attempt to reach a state of “no mind.” It is called Mushin in Japanese and Wuxin in Chinese. I learned about it in Zen study where it was described as “mind without mind” – a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything. It is translated by D.T. Suzuki as “being free from mind-attachment.”
A friend posted this new song today and it does seem to work with this poem.
The bird who recently built its nest in the drainpipe is either very optimistic – or foolish. I feel that hopeful optimism is foolish in these darkly troubling times. Maybe the thing with feathers is optimism.
The title and final line here is a nod to Emily Dickinson’s poem in which the thing with feathers is hope in the form of a bird who seems unabashed by any troubles around it.
Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard; And sore must be the storm That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land, And on the strangest sea; Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me.
Emily Dickinson’s poem “Split the Lark” refers to the “scarlet experiment.” I had to look up that reference. It is a term applied to when scientists destroy a bird or any creature in order to learn more about it. As Emily says, you can’t find the music inside the bird.
“Split the Lark – and You’ll find the Music –
Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled –
Scantily dealt to the Summer Morning
Saved for your Ear, when Lutes be old –
Loose the Flood – you shall find it patent –
Gush after Gush, reserved for you –
Scarlet Experiment! Skeptic Thomas!
Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?”
The welcoming sunlight forced my eyes closed – into meditation mode: white-throated sparrow’s simple notes of three/four; harsh jay’s single screech bu no Barred Owl’s “Who cooks for you.” Sets of three-noted refrains – Black-capped Chickadees feeding.
I have been trying in recent years to be able to identify some common avian visitors to my neighborhood by their songs. “Songs” may seem grandiose for some of these simple notes. I suspect they are melodic sentences, though they do seem to repeat a chorus or refrain. You can hear these songs at allaboutbirds.org. Perhaps, some birds write haiku, while others prefer free verse or their own kind of villanelles.